Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bodily Remains

We were at a family gathering one day a number of years ago. One of our nephews, who shall remain nameless, had recently lost a tooth.

“Did you put it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy?” I asked him.

“Nah,” he replied. “I keep my baby teeth and string ‘em on a necklace.”

Whoa! Visions of voodoo and restless natives. But hey – I appreciate creative thinking. And it might be worth forgoing the dollar each time in order to create a piece of personal history – an heirloom that future generations would be sure to fight over: Time to divvy up the worldly possessions. Whoever gets the grand piano must also take the baby tooth necklace. And wear it.

I got a lot of mileage out of it. Whenever the subject of the Tooth Fairy came up, I’d tell about my nephew and his add-a-tooth necklace. I’m a substitute teacher. This always went over really well with the elementary school crowd.

But then one day a couple of years later I asked Mark (Whoops! Sorry, Mark.) how his baby tooth necklace was coming along and he looked at me like I was crazy! He claimed to have no idea what I was talking about.

Had I dreamed the whole thing? What a let down. I’m hoping I at least managed to convince a few grade schoolers to take up the craft.

I’ve read enough old-time novels to know that people used to will their relatives (usually poor, distant relatives who could have used a lot more) a ring made from their hair. Their deceased hair. To remember them by. Makes my ring finger itch just thinking about it.

Recently one of my Facebook friends posted a link to the website of Psyche Cremation Jewelry. Obviously I’m interested in this kind of thing, so I immediately clicked on the link. I’ve never heard of anything like this before. The page was quite intriguing. “Memorialize your loved one in hand blown cremation jewelry.” I especially liked where they asked “What makes Psyche Cremation Jewelry unique?” Does anyone really need to ask this? The small business owner will take the cremated remains of your loved one, be they human or pet, and craft them into a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry. Picture in your mind a pendant, the design of which incorporates the letters in “Uncle Ed.”

“Oh, how sentimentally thoughtful,” a friend remarks to you. “A necklace to remind you of your Uncle Ed.”

“Actually,” you respond, “this necklace is my Uncle Ed.”

Years ago, my grandmother’s husband died. I think he had been both her second and fourth husbands. She had him (them) cremated. His ashes were placed in a receptacle of some kind and given back to her. Somewhere along the timeline of death and funeral arrangements, my aunt and uncle ended up in possession of the remains for a few days. Aunt Norma refused to be left home alone with Ruel’s remains so Uncle Larry put them in the trunk of his car. One evening he had to attend a leadership meeting at the church. It started to go a little long. After a while he excused himself.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go,” he said. “I’ve got my father-in-law out in the car.”

They all felt terrible that Ruel had been out in the car so long. They plied Uncle Larry with extra refreshments and insisted he leave right away.

Pretty handy, huh?

A few days ago, in the hopes of engaging me in a political discussion, my husband asked me if I thought it should be legal for people to use the art of taxidermy to preserve their dearly departed kin. A taxidermist actually lives in the house behind ours (and it’s only a little bit creepy). I told Kent that even though he might get a good deal on me from the neighbor, I didn’t recommend it. I’ve seen Mrs. Bates in her fruit cellar. She’s not a pretty sight.

Better to go with the jewelry.


  1. hahahaha sister gassman you are too much.

  2. ha! laughed out loud several times during this. i think it's time to go a-hunting for the long lost baby tooth necklace...

  3. Melinda, when I left home my mom gave me all sorts of stuff she had saved, including all of my baby teeth. I immediately got rid of them, but...I could have made a necklace if I had only known.

  4. Aaaaaaaaaaack! So creepy, I love it.